Category: News

COVID-19 Important Announcements

In response to the ever-changing dynamics related to the COVID-19 virus, YBGR has taken the following steps in order to minimize the risk of transmission and to keep those we serve, as well as our staff, safe and healthy. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time, and we are grateful for your support of our mission: Caring People Preparing Youth for Life.

As of March 26, 2020:

  • Yellowstone Academy Day School services are closed until April 10th, 2020.
  • Visitation with youth residing at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch will be limited to video or phone contacts. Please contact YBGR to arrange for free videoconferencing to be setup to visit with your youth.
  • All non-emergency off-campus passes and appointments are cancelled until further notice. Medical passes will be approved on a case-by-case basis by our medical staff. Youth residing on campus have access to 24/7 nursing and medical care.
  • All admissions will be screened for exposure to the COVID-19 virus, and admission may be delayed until such time that we are assured that others are not at risk.
  • Wherever feasible, services will be provided by telehealth or in environments that reflect social distancing approaches to preventing infection.
  • All staff have received updated information regarding how to prevent transmission and spread of COVID-19, and additional protocols, including staffing, cleaning and sanitation have been implemented.

We will continue to work tirelessly to protect your child, as well as our dedicated staff.

Thank you for your understanding and partnership during this difficult time. Please refer to this website to receive future updates.

Mike Chavers – CEO

3-Day EMDR Intensive Training: Neuroscience, Diagnosis and State of the Art Practices to Treat Complex Trauma 1/8/2020-1/10/2020






Join trauma specialist, author and national trainer, Megan Howard, LCSW, CCTP, for this intensive 3-day EMDR training that will provide you the knowledge and skills needed to use EMDR safely and effectively. Through lecture, live and videotaped EMDR demonstrations, and supervised experiential exercises, this training will provide you with an in-depth knowledge of trauma theory, principles, diagnosis and EMDR treatment.

The stage model remains today’s state-of-the-art treatment approach for all but single-incident trauma. During this training, you will learn the goals of each stage, along with the therapeutic tools to reach those goals.

You must be present for all 3 days of EMDR training to receive the hours of training certificate. CEUs will be emailed by PESI after paperwork has been processed.

Cost is $700.00 per ticket 

Purchase Tickets


Wednesday January 8th, 2020

  • Registration 7:30am-8:00am
  • Training 8:00am-11:50am
  • Lunch 11:50am-1:00pm (Lunch on your own)
  • Training 1:00pm-4:00pm 

Thursday January 9th, 2020

  • Training 8:00am-11:50am
  • Lunch 11:50am-1:00pm (Lunch on your own)
  • Training 1:00pm-4:00pm 

Friday January 10th, 2020

  • Training 8:00am-11:50am
  • Lunch 11:50am-1:00pm (Lunch on your own)
  • Training 1:00pm-4:00pm 

Program Outline:

Neuroscience of Trauma, Effective Assessment and DSM-5® Diagnostic Criteria

Neuroscience’s Current Trauma Paradigm

Biological nature of trauma

  • Triune Brain, The Autonomic Nervous System and the Stress Response
  • The Polyvagal Theory
  • Traumatic Stress: normal, prolonged, complex and developmental

Specific trauma symptoms

Primary treatment issues in trauma therapy

Trauma’s Somatic and Sensorimotor Sequelae

  • Hyperarousal
  • Hypoarousal
  • Dissociation, body memories and “flashbacks” Affect dysregulation

Trauma and Attachment

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study)

Attachment Essentials

  • Baby/momma trauma
  • Insecure Attachment Styles Assessment and Primary Treatment Issues of:
  • Avoidant
  • Preoccupied
  • Disorganized type

Assessment and Diagnosis of Trauma Disorders

Current Trauma Diagnoses:

  • Acute Trauma Disorder
  • PTSD and subtypes
  • Dissociative
  • Preschool
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Proposed Trauma Diagnoses

  • Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD)
  • Complex PTSD

Trauma Treatment: Effective Tools, Treatment Modalities, and an Introduction EMDR

The Stage Model of Treatment

  • Assessment, Rapport, Psychoeducation
  • Developing the “Skills to Stay Stable”
  • Trauma Tools for Affect Regulation
  • Recognizing and regulating affect
  • Dissociative episodes and “flashbacks”
  • Grounding clients in their bodies and back in the present in the here and now
  • Mindfulness/bodyfulness (including somatic exercises)
  • Multisensory Guided Imagery
  • EFT (meridian tapping)
  • Reduction of physiological arousal
  • Recognizing and up & down regulating arousal levels
  • Containment and self-soothing
  • Stage One: Stabilization and Safety

Stage Two: Working Through Traumatic Memories

  • Brief overview of the theory and applicability of three trauma processing modalities:
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP)
  • Somatic Experiencing (SE)
  • EMDR

Practice EMDR for both Resourcing and Trauma Processing

Live EMDR demonstration followed by experiential sessions

Under Supervision, Learn and Safely Practice the Skills of EMDR for Both Phase One and Two

Phase One Work: Imaginal Resourcing

  • Containment Imagery
  • Comfortable Place Imagery
  • Protection Imagery and/or Nurture Imagery

Phase Two Work: Reprocessing Traumatic Memories

Limitations of Research and Potential Risk

  • Contraindications and precautions for reprocessing trauma
  • Differences in theory and in the associated neurophysiological models are a matter of ongoing discussion


1. Evaluate the biological nature of trauma and how trauma is stored in the body and limbic system, creating physical and psychological symptoms to better understand your clients.

2. Differentiate between sympathetic (activated) freeze response and the parasympathetic (deactivated) dorsal vagal immobilization response your clients experience.

3. Distinguish between the following types of traumatic stress: normal, prolonged, complex and developmental and articulate treatment considerations for each.

4. Ascertain the clinical implications of traumatic stress symptomology, including hyperarousal, affect dysregulation, dissociation, body memories, and flashbacks.

5. Employ effective somatic techniques to reduce/eliminate client’s body memories, “flashbacks” and dissociation.

6. Summarize the landmark study: Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and understand the ten adverse childhood experiences studied as they related to clinical diagnosis and assessment.

7. Evaluate the clinical presentation of the following attachment styles as it relates to your clinical assessment: secure vs insecure; insecure; organized vs insecure disorganized.

8. Designate two different treatment strategies, once attachment style has been ascertained, based on your clients’ attachment style.

9. Demonstrate strategies to help clients build skills to be prepared to process trauma via EMDR, including safety within the therapeutic alliance and skills for self-regulation.

10. Determine when/if your client is prepared to safely process trauma memories via EMDR.

11. Create and employ client-driven imagery for safety and containment during trauma processing.

12. Utilize clinical techniques to help with grounding and centering traumatized clients in-session.

13. Prepare clients with various trauma tools; mindfulness, guided imagery and meridian-based techniques to decrease client’s arousal levels and modulate affect.

14. Analyze and critique the original eight phases of EMDR’s standard protocol (Shapiro) as it relates to clinical treatment.

15. Determine Parnell’s four essential elements of each EMDR session and how it relates to client treatment.

16. Practice under supervision Parnell’s Modified EMDR protocol to prepare for work with your clients in-session.

17. Practice under supervision the skill for resourcing a client with imaginal resources prior to processing traumatic material.

18. Practice under supervision the trauma processing modality and EDMR tools for processing traumatic memories with your clients.

19. Utilize and practice two “cues for safety” with your clients based on Steve Porges’ Polyvagal Theory.

Continuing Education Credits – all 3 days

Addiction Counselors: This course has been approved by PESI, Inc., as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for 19.0 CE in the Counseling Services skill group. NAADAC Provider #77553. PESI, Inc. is responsible for all aspects of their programming. Full attendance is required; no partial credit will be awarded for partial attendance.

Counselors: This intermediate activity consists of 19.0 clock hours of continuing education instruction. Credit requirements and approvals vary per state board regulations. Please save the course outline, the certificate of completion you receive from the activity and contact your state board or organization to determine specific filing requirements.

Montana Counselors: The Montana Board of Behavioral Health no longer pre-approves any courses or sponsors. Each licensee is responsible for taking courses which contribute to their competence and directly relate to their scope of practice as defined in board statute (MAR 24-219-32). Licensees must keep CE documentation for three years in case of an audit. This intermediate level activity consists of 19.0 clock hours of instruction.

Marriage & Family Therapists: This activity consists of 1140 minutes of continuing education instruction. Credit requirements and approvals vary per state board regulations. You should save this course outline, the certificate of completion you receive from the activity and contact your state board or organization to determine specific filing requirements.

Montana Marriage & Family Therapists: The Montana Board of Behavioral Health no longer pre-approves any courses or sponsors. Each licensee is responsible for taking courses which contribute to their competence and directly relate to their scope of practice as defined in board statute

(MAR 24-219-32). Licensees must keep CE documentation for three years in case of an audit. This intermediate level activity consists of 19.0 clock hours of instruction.

EMDRIA: This training is not affiliated with EMDRIA and does not qualify towards EMDRIA credits or training.

Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Clinical Nurse Specialists: PESI, Inc. is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.

  • Nurses in full attendance will earn 19.0 contact hours. Partial contact hours will be awarded for partial attendance.

Psychologists: This live activity consists of 19.0 clock hours of continuing education instruction. Credit requirements and approvals vary per state board regulations. Please save the course outline and the certificate of completion you receive from this live activity. Contact us for more information on your state board or organization specific filing requirements. American Psychological Association credits are not available.

Montana Psychologists: This live activity is designed to meet the criteria requirements of the Montana Board of Psychologists and is a PESI-approved continuing education and qualifies for 1140 instructional minutes. Please save the certificate of completion you receive from this live activity.

Social Workers: PESI, Inc., #1062, is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved as ACE providers. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. PESI, Inc. maintains responsibility for this course. ACE provider approval period: January 27, 2017 – January 27, 2020. Social Workers completing this course receive 19.0 Clinical Practice continuing education credits. Course Level: Intermediate. Full attendance is required; no partial credits will be offered for partial attendance. A certificate of attendance will be awarded at the end of the program to social workers who complete the program evaluation.

Montana Social Workers: The Montana Board of Behavioral Health no longer pre-approves any courses or sponsors. Each licensee is responsible for taking courses which contribute to their competence and directly relate to their scope of practice as defined in board statute (MAR 24-219-32). Licensees must keep CE documentation for three years in case of an audit. This intermediate level activity consists of 19.0 clock hours of instruction.

Other Professions: This activity qualifies for 1140 minutes of instructional content as required by many national, state and local licensing boards and professional organizations. Save your course outline and certificate of completion, and contact your own board or organization for specific requirements.

Speaker Megan Howard, LCSW, CCTP was trained on the use of EMDR as a treatment protocol through EMDRIA and uses EMDR in her practice to achieve improved outcomes with a broad spectrum of clients in the areas of trauma, abuse, and substance abuse.

She is certified as a Clinical Trauma Professional through the International Association of Trauma Professionals and currently owns and operates one of the largest treatment centers for substance abuse and trauma in the state of Idaho.

She has been invited to train internationally at the International Society of Addiction Medicine in India and at the International Conference on Addiction Research and Therapy in Amsterdam.

Ms. Howard earned her Masters in Clinical Social Work from Northwest Nazarene University and is a member of EMDRIA and the International Society of Addiction Medicine..

Speaker Disclosures:

Financial: Megan Howard is the owner of Addiction and Trauma Recovery Services. She receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc.

Non-financial: Megan Howard has no relevant non-financial relationship to disclose.

YBGR Economic Impact Report

Recently, YBGR, through a generous grant from NorthWestern Energy, YBGR partnered with Circle Analytics to complete an Economic Impact Report. Through this partnership, we did a “deep-dive” into the benefits of YBGR: what we not only do for kids and families, but also how much of a difference we make economically to our stakeholders (you). 

Circle Analytics  prepared hundreds of these reports for state agencies, cities, counties, economic development districts, as well as private and nonprofit entities across the country.   Social impacts recognize the greater extended value of the program to society – dollars expended vs. dollars saved.

Circle Analytics found that for every dollar spent at YBGR, there is a return of $13.90 through long-term savings to society, jobs, capital investment and indirect business taxes.  

Full Report

Yellowstone Public Radio-Youth Advocates Team Up On Pilot Program

Youth Advocates Team Up On Pilot Program


Young man works on homework

Three youth advocacy groups in Yellowstone County are pooling their resources.

Tumbleweed, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County, and the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch are in the first few months of a pilot program.

They’re helping connect children with adults best suited to their needs. Ideally, the adult will help guide the child over an extended period of time, or however long is necessary.

Erika Willis is the executive director of Tumbleweed, a non-profit that helps homeless or otherwise at-risk youth. She said one goal is to provide kids with someone they feel comfortable turning to.

“Because they’ve developed that relationship, and they start to know my tummy feels weird or I had a weird day, and I know I can talk to someone about this and take the pressure off,” said Willis.

Willis said, in a situation like that, the child could come to an adult to get to the root problem early, instead of adults having to step in when they notice poor grades or missed classes.

“That’s another example of let’s get in front of this before it blows up,” she said.

One central goal is to help the three organizations combine resources and manpower. Brian Dennis is President of the Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County.

“This is the three of us putting everybody in the room together to try and figure out how we best utilize each other’s skillset,” said Dennis.

At this point, the three non-profits are working with the Boys and Girls Clubs students at the Lockwood Schools campus with funds from the Montana Healthcare Foundation.

SMART Training

Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART):

Starting at a young age, children learn to process their world through their senses.  They learn to regulate their emotions not only through their senses but their relationships and connections to those around them, most importantly their caregiver.  At YBGR we utilize a variety of evidenced-based treatment approaches for children that focus on changing their negative thought patterns, emotions and behaviors.  As an agency working towards more trauma-informed care practices, we recognize the need to meet the children and families where they are at.  Through the Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART), we now have the opportunity to truly meet children and their families where they are at in their treatment.  SMART was designed using a variety of treatment and therapy expertise including: trauma-focused psychotherapy, sensorimotor psychotherapy, sensory integration, play therapy, attachment and family therapy, developmental psychology and human development.  Clinicians using SMART work with the child (and hopefully the caregiver) to nurture healing and growth.  This model offers flexibility to be implemented as individual therapy, caregiver-child therapy or parent psychoeducation/coaching. 

This modality can be used to treat somatic problems, emotional dysregulation, posttraumatic stress disorder, behavioral disorders, mood and anxiety disorders that are based in a history of trauma.  Through a very generous donation, YBGR was able to have Elizabeth Warner, Psy.D. and Heather Finn, LICSW from SMARTmoves ( come and train our staff over the course of three days.  YBGR was able to train not only the clinicians throughout our organization in the SMART model, but also have some non-clinical staff (school-based behavior specialists, care coordinators, program managers, and mental health workers) trained on how they can help support the therapists in their work with the clients and families.  In an effort to further collaborate with outside providers, five Billings Clinic Staff (4 therapists and 1 psychiatrist) joined the training as well. 

During the first two days of training, clinicians spent much of their time learning the philosophy and application behind the model as well as learning about the equipment.  Best of all, they got to test all of the equipment to see what it did and various ways to incorporate it into their work with children and families.  At YBGR we work with many clients who have experienced multiple traumatic events, often severe and pervasive in nature.  Through this unique model clinicians learned just how to  work with the children in a specially designed room to help facilitate emotional and behavioral regulation.  The room is exclusively designed for this purpose, children can playfully use big pillows, weighted blankets, balance beams, and other equipment that allows for full engagement of their brain and body.  There has been research to show the generational impact of trauma; meaning that parents who experience trauma will inevitability pass down the trauma to their children.  Countless studies exist and research regarding the Adverse Childhood Experiences and the generational impact.  For the caregivers who are involved in the treatment of their child, the strategies taught to their child often are useful for them personally as well.  Clinicians can also meet privately with the caregiver to offer some guidance to help coach their child. 

It’s YBGR’s effort to help not only the child but the whole family to help continue the growth within the family and ultimately within the community. 

The Yellowstone Conference: Lighting The Way-Systems & Solutions

Join Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for our annual Montana youth centered conference with professional panel discussions on systems and solutions for Montana’s youth.

Thursday August 2, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Franklin & Merle Robbie Chapel, located on YBGR’s main campus at 1732 S. 72nd St. W, Billings, MT 59106

Lunch will be provided

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Registration
9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Welcome
9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Montana Foster Care Panel
11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break
11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Trauma Informer Care Panel
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Overcoming Obstacles Panel
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Collaborating for Outcomes
4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Keynote Speakers

Register Today!

Montana Foster Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Montana Foster Care will focus on the causes and solutions for children, families, government and providers.

Moderator: Charise Lemelin, is the Regional Clinical Director for YBGR Community Based Services.  Charise joined the YBGR family in 2000 and has served in a number of capacities over the years.  She has been in the Clinical Director position for the past 4 years.  Charise earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montana State University Billings and her Master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University.  Charise is a Montana native and enjoys working in YBGR’s  rural satellite programs, especially Therapeutic Foster Care.  She is actively involved in her home community of Dillon where she is a part of the local ACES Task Force and a Board Member of the CASA program. 


Steve Bryan, Co-Founder/Executive Director Child Bridge. Steve is the Executive Director of Child Bridge, a faith-based non-profit that finds and equips foster and adoptive families for Montana children in need.

Steve and his wife Mary founded Child Bridge in late 2010 when they became aware of the severe shortage of foster homes and a lack of supports and resources to help families care for childhood victims of trauma.  Child Bridge now serves families caring for children in foster or adoptive care in 22 counties across the state from Child Bridge hubs in the Flathead, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings.

Steve and Mary have been foster parents, and understand the issues children “from hard places” face. Steve’s faith is a foremost priority in his life and he brings that focus to his work with children, families, churches, pastors and other child welfare providers daily.

He is a seasoned professional with over 40 years of proven experience in entrepreneurship and small business executive management skills. Steve attended Montana State University and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Special Forces Unit. He was honorably discharged and received the Medal of Valor.

Steve and Mary are parents of two daughters and grandparents of two young boys. They have been foster parents to a teenage boy (now 22), who they have an ongoing relationship with, as well as his biological parents.  Their foster son is now married, recently had a baby boy, and named Steve and Mary as grandparents to his son.

Tricia Hergett, CASA, is the Program Administrator for CASA of Yellowstone County.  Tricia has been with CASA for 5 years and provides program coordination to all staff and CASA volunteers advocates.  Additionally, she acts as the staff liaison with the Department of Child and Family Services and she works with all stakeholders to create the priority list of cases for CASAs to take and monitors hearings for cases on the priority list as they wait for CASAs to be assigned.  Tricia previously worked at RiverStone Health as an Assistant to the Vice President, Medicaid Health Improvement Program Administration and the Yellowstone County Registrar. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at ASU.

Keisha Gilbert (YBGR Therapeutic Foster parent) I have been married for 16 years and have 4 children including 3 biological children and 1 foster love. Their ages are 15, 13, 7, and 5. My Christian faith and my family are the highlights of my life. I have a degree in child development and education. I have been working with children for 16 years in various capacities including childcare centers, preschool, public school, church ministry, parenting, fostering, and private school. I currently teach 1st through 8th grade in a small private school and tutor high school students. My husband and I have been therapeutic foster parents with YBGR for about a year and a half.  Coming from a hard place myself, I truly seek to help children from hard places. My mission is to give every child in my path real hope for the future, to share my story of resilience and healing that it might encourage others on that same journey.

Lori Ketchum, ISU-CPS, I was born and raised in Montana in a rural community west of Billings.  I have lived in Billings the past 18 years and have been with Child & Family Services for 6 ½ years.  I currently work in the Intensive Services Unit, ISU, as a Child Protection Specialist primarily working with older children the Department has Permanent Legal Custody of. These children are usually placed in congregate care settings requiring intensive supports to aid in their successful transition into permanent and stable placements.  The ISU utilizes an intensive engagement model to provide youth in congregate care facilities services to expedite transitions into lower levels of care and move the youth successfully to permanency. My main goal is to find adoptive homes willing to care for these children who have been in care for an extensive amount of time.  I attempt to think outside the box and explore previous relationships youth have had or attempt to find appropriate family members.    

Christine Ellerbee, is a a Child Protection Specialist.

Trauma Informed Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Trauma Informed Care will focus on moving beyond theory to practice.

Moderator: Dr. Taylor Mayer, PhD, LCPC – Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations at YBGR. Dr. Mayer first joined YBGR in 1993 as a Mental Health Worker, he returned in the role of Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations in 2017. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor in Montana and Wyoming, and is a Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association.


Susan Frew, LCPC, LMFT – Clinical Director at YBGR Community Based Services.  Susan Frew joined YBGR in June 2010.  She began as a therapist in our residential program and later joined Community Based Services (CBS), serving as a therapist, Clinical Supervisor and now serves as the Clinical Director at CBS.  Susan became a trauma-informed care trainer in the community and has presented within schools to help offer further understanding/guidance on what it means to be trauma-informed.  She has recently been certified through the ChildTrauma Academy to complete the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).  The NMT approach helps to integrate core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to help inform the work with children/families/communities.  Susan holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Mercyhurst University and a Master of Science in Marriage & Family Therapy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.  She is licensed as a Professional Counselor and Marriage & Family Therapist in Montana, and she is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy.

Erica Schuppe is the owner and occupational therapy lead at Wild Roots Therapy, PC. When not at work she is also a busy mom to three, wife, and a yoga, gardening, and camping enthusiast. Erica has been an occupational therapist for 15 years and in private practice for more than half of that time.  Erica started her career working in the rural schools and has served Montana districts from Colstrip, to Broadview, Red Lodge, and all the miles in between. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming and her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR.

Erica’s clinical expertise is in the evaluation and treatment of children from babies to teens with various developmental disabilities including autism, sensory processing disorders and neurodevelopmental differences from childhood trauma.

Jim FitzGerald, CEO Intermountain. Jim joined Intermountain in 1978, working as a cottage counselor in the residential services program. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2001, Jim was Director of Operations, working in all facets of program development, training, policy, and finance.

Throughout his career, Jim has focused the agency upon strengthening families and improving society’s ability to provide prevention, protection, treatment and permanency for all vulnerable youth. A dedicated leader in youth advocacy, he has played a vital role in the state and national forum of child welfare, mental health, and public policy. Working with a dynamic Board and staff, he is responsible for guiding the vision and mission of Intermountain, and transforming Intermountain into a nationally recognized children’s mental health agency.

Jim is also the CEO of ChildWise Institute, a Montana not-for-profit 501c (3) organization established by Intermountain. The mission of ChildWise is to elevate the well-being of vulnerable children through advancing awareness, accelerating knowledge, and advocating for positive societal change. ChildWise has garnered attention across the State of Montana and at the national level.

Jim holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Montana.

Angela Freyenhagen I have been a business woman in the BILLINGS community since 2006 working in Hotels, medical Field, staffing and Real Estate.   I was very active in different nonprofit organizations and served as a board member on Head Start and Make a Wish Foundation, SHRM. I served as a committee member for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and Big Sky Economic Development workforce program.

I am a survivor of abuse, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and cancer. My life at an early age was affected by sexual abuse by family member and older teens in the neighborhood. At the age of 22 I was abducted, held hostage and raped and left for dead. I then turned to drugs and alcohol and ended up in a very domesticated violent relationship. I believe in the restorative power of God, counseling and treatment programs and have been able to live a life of sobriety, happiness and joy beyond my wildest dreams.

Tara French, is a juvenile probation officer for the Yellowstone County Court Services.


Overcoming Obstacles:

The panel on Overcoming Obstacles will focus on the barriers to positive outcomes from drop-out, homelessness, delinquency and chemical dependency issues.

Moderator: Kim Chouinard, M.Ed. – Executive Director of YBGR Community Based Services.  Kim Chouinard joined the Ranch team in 2004. She began as a mental health worker in our residential lodges and in 2006 joined our Community Based Services (CBS) team. Chouinard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Montana State University Billings. She has been serving in the mental health field since 2002. As the Executive Director of CBS, her areas of oversight include school based services, home support services, therapeutic foster care, case management, supported employment, outpatient therapy, therapeutic youth mentoring, and chemical dependency.  She has a passion for children’s mental health and bringing awareness to our communities.


Erika Willis, M.S. joined Tumbleweed in October of 2016 as the Executive Director.    Erika launched her career 28 years ago in the social sector providing direct services for children and families in need, eventually expanding her role into organizational leadership. 

Erika has held positions in a variety of organizations in both the social and private sectors most recently as Company Leader, Customer Experience for Elation, Inc. and prior to that, Executive Director of STEP, Inc.  Before her tenure in leadership, Erika’s work spanned from direct services with children with disabilities to crisis counseling, case management, fundraising and organizational development.

Erika has a B.S in Human Services and M.S in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from Montana State University-Billings and is the Chair of the Yellowstone County Continuum of Care.   She was born and raised in Billings and raised two adult sons in Billings.

Sergeant Robert Lester has been in his current assignment since September of 2013 and has been a sworn deputy since January of 2008. He is the Field Training Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office, and prior to his promotion to Sergeant, he was a Field Training Officer. He previously served on the Yellowstone County SWAT team and was the Vice President for the Mountain States Tactical Officers Association. He is a POST certified S.F.S.T. Instructor and has been the lead SFST Instructor at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. He is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor and teaches a variety of DUI and drug related classes. He has testified in Federal, District, Justice and City Court, at times serving as an expert witness. Sergeant Lester currently holds a POST Advanced and POST Supervisory certificate. He was previously employed as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger for the National Park Service. He worked in Yellowstone National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as a front county Ranger. Sergeant Lester is a graduate of Montana State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberals Studies, with an emphasis in Justice Studies. For the past 7 years he has coached little league baseball for the Laurel Little League and also is the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 421 in Laurel, MT. He has four children and has been married to his wife Julie for 16 years.

Kristin Lundgren, M.Ed.  Kristin grew up in Chad, Africa, where her parents did public health and famine relief.  She came to Minnesota for college and made her way to Billings in 2000 where she began work on the prevention of youth substance abuse and violence.  That worked morphed into her current role as Director of Impact at United Way of Yellowstone County, where she oversees strategies to increase graduation rates to 95% by 2025 and keep vulnerable seniors independent in their homes.  Solving these problems includes a portfolio of strategies including investments in direct service programs but also multi-sector collaborations to innovate and work on system solutions to complex problems like substance abuse, homelessness or early childhood adversity.  

Joseph Osborne has been a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for over 10 years. After 19 weeks of training at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA, he was temporarily assigned to the Oklahoma City District Office for 8 months. After that, he spent the next 7 years in Laredo, TX (the largest land port in the US) trying to slow the flow of illicit drugs being brought into our country by the Mexican Cartels. In 2016, he was transferred to Billings, MT to work in the Tactical Diversion Squad, to combat the growing opioid epidemic here in Montana.  

Collaborating For Outcomes:

The panel on Collaborating for Outcomes will focus on government and provider relations and how they impact youth and families.

Moderator: Michael Chavers –  joined YBGR in August of 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer. Born and raised in Idaho, Chavers pursued his education and career in Illinois. Before moving to Montana, he worked at Indian Oaks Academy, Nexus, for 22 years. Most recently, he severed as the Executive Director of the organization. Chavers holds a Masters of Arts in Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Moody Bible Institute. He is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.


Sheila Hogan was appointed in December 2016 by Governor Steve Bullock to be the Director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). She has been a champion for the thousands of Montanans this agency serves through her work in public service for over 30 years and is thrilled to begin her tenure at DPHHS.

Prior to her recent appointment, she served as the Director of the state’s Department of Administration for four years, with a focus of strategic health care initiatives, customer service, and streamlining government processes to better serve Montana communities.

She led a multi-pronged initiative in the state healthcare plan that saved the state and taxpayers more than $30 million. She led staff in a top-to-bottom review of the state health plan, resulting in the streamlining of services, saving taxpayer money, and increasing government efficiency.

Director Hogan led new efforts to help Montana businesses do business with the state, including: the creation of “Procurement Forecasts” of upcoming bid opportunities for Montana businesses, instituting procurement workshops across the state, serving more than 100 businesses as they learn best practices for submitting successful bids; establishing an online submission program that streamlines the submission process and cuts down on red tape; and creating of a pre-qualified pool of businesses and vendors, which creates greater efficiency in obtaining contracts.

She ensured that veterans and national guardsman had access to Employee Assistance Programs. She instituted training for more than 1,400 individuals through the Confront the Stigma suicide prevention campaign, and made government more accessible to citizens by establishing a free shuttle during the legislative session through a partnership with local government.

Through this work and leadership, Sheila has led innovative change initiatives, motivated teams, cut costs, and empowered employees through strategic thinking, planning, and management. She has directed multi-funded, multi-divisional, multi-disciplinary organizations utilizing performance management techniques and standards and maintaining goal-oriented approaches to effectuate positive change. She specializes in formulating effective, versatile and efficient solutions while maintaining focus and persistence to initiate and implement meaningful change.

Meghan Peel is the Bureau Chief for the Montana Children’s Mental Health Bureau, since May of 2018.  Previously, Meghan was the Program Manager for Montana’s Medicaid Expansion and CHIP Programs within the Department of Public Health and Human Services. In this role, Meghan served as the liaison between the Department and its Third Party Administrator. Additionally, Meghan has managed several 1115 demonstration waivers, including Montana’s Medicaid Expansion demonstration waiver. Before joining Montana Medicaid, Meghan worked as an auditor for Ernst & Young in the Bay Area of California. Meghan received a B.S. in Business and holds a Master’s of Professional Accountancy, both from Montana State University. She lives in Helena, Montana with her husband and two sons.

Jeff Folsom is the President of Folsom Strategies, LLC and the Director of Policy and Special Projects at the Center for Children and Families and Workforce Development at the University of Montana. Jeff’s has leadership experience in all facets of behavioral health delivery systems spanning the past 35 years. Foundational experiences include providing direct care services in a variety of treatment settings, moving from front line into clinical, supervisory and ultimately executive management.  Jeff’s dual qualifications in both law and clinical social work foster leadership in running programs and advocating with the state legislature and governmental agencies.  Jeff is recognized for his solution focused approach to his work and his leadership role in shaping state policies and regulations to reduce systemic barriers to delivering behavioral health care, improving access and promoting the quality of care for Montana’s children and families.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy is the Executive Director of Disability Rights Montana. She sets the tone and ensures that DRM’s mission of Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All and advocating for equal rights protection for Montanans with disabilities is being accomplished through the work of the staff. Every person is entitled to the same legal and civil rights, freedoms, and protections; something that DRM is actively accomplishing for people with disabilities.

Bernie grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Chaminade University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1983. Her past legal experience includes: Law Clerk for the First Judicial Circuit Court in Hawaii, Founding Executive Director of the Hawaii Bar Foundation, Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City and County of Honolulu, and the Attorney and Director of Programs for the Protection and Advocacy system in Hawaii. Bernie is licensed to practice law in Hawaii and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bernie has been DRM’s Executive Director for 20 years and served as president of the National Disability Rights Network.

Keynote Speakers:

Kurt G. Alme is an American attorney and the current United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Prior to assuming his current role, he served as president and general counsel of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation. A graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School, Alme clerked for Charles C. Lovell of the United States District Court for the District of Montana. He was a partner with the law firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich, PLLP. From 2003 to 2010, Alme served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, and was the first assistant U.S. Attorney from 2006 to 2010. He previously served as director of the Montana Department of Revenue.

Scott Pederson, Deputy County Attorney for Yellowstone County and Guardian ad Litem for 13th Judicial District (Yellowstone County). Scott litigates in the area of child abuse and neglect, including an attorney who represents children and court-appointed special advocates.